This is a pet peave of mine.
Have you ever noticed how people on the internet repeat information they hear as if it were absolute fact when it may not be true or may be only partially true.
I am planning on doing some canning. I thought I’d look up on the internet to get some ideas. When I looked up canning meat I found the same comment over and over again. Whether it was a homesteading, a survivalist or just a cooking site they all said the same thing. Often exactly the same words. “When canning meat it is very, very, very important that you absolutely must use a pressure canner.” They then go on to tell you how you will die and the world will end if you don’t run out and buy a pressure canner. (the source of many of the statements, using the same words, appears to originally come from the Presto website trying to sell pressure canners). Also, all our ancestors died of botulism because they didn’t use a pressure canner/cooker.
Now we all know the dangers of botulism and I am not saying to take it lightly. But it just isn’t true that the only way to safely can meat is with a pressure canner.
A little background on botulism. Botulism is caused by a bacteria. The bacteria can form spores which can survive some extremes. The bacteria also produces a toxin. The toxin is what is harmful to us. (it also provides Botox, BOtulism TOXin, which makes aging politicians look permanently surprised and who are also harmful to us) We can actually eat the bacteria or the spores without getting sick. They can’t survive our gut. But if the bacteria is left on food for a period of time the toxin they produce makes the food poisonous.
Canning in a regular water bath canner heats the food to 212 degrees. This is hot enough to kill the bacteria and to neutralize (denature) the toxin (actually 180 degrees is hot enough, see pasteurization and double-pasteurization for germinated spores). It is not hot enough to kill the spores. A pressure canner takes the temperature to over 240 degrees which is hot enough to kill the spores. If the spores aren’t killed they CAN become bacteria over a period of time. So people mistakenly say that you MUST use a pressure canner. Look back on this paragraph. Temperatures over 180 degrees for 5 minutes neutralizes the toxin (according to the CDC it is easily destroyed). This means it is then safe to eat. (as far as botulism is concerned) SO JUST COOK THE CANNED MEAT BEFORE YOU EAT IT! It’s not rocket surgery. Just cook the meat like you would any raw meat. Of course if it smells bad or the cap has popped don’t eat it just like you would with any canned goods.
So some of you are out there thinking why not just use a pressure canner to begin with. No problem with that. Just don’t mislead people into thinking it’s the only way. And even if you use a pressure canner it’s a good idea to still cook the meat, or even many low acid vegetables. (by the way, pickled beef heart is delicious and makes meat high acid). But imagine a survivalist is all prepped when a catastrophe strikes. All the stores are closed or destroyed. The guy finds out the seal or the relief valve on his pressure canner is broke with no way to fix it. He just might starve or be frightened to death because he’s been told he has to use a pressure canner without being told there are other ways. Okay. It’s a silly example but you get the idea. Maybe someone just can’t budget a cheap pressure canner. And for those of you privileged people who have never been truly broke this can be a reality for many people.
Now for those of you who only trust what the government says here is a link to the CDC. Read the whole thing. Of course they recommend using a pressure canner if you can but actually look at the facts they present.
Finally, the reason the botulism bacteria grows to begin with is because meat and some vegetables are low acid. The bacteria can’t survive in acid (remember our gut is deadly to them). You can also add acid, such as vinegar or nitrites to the canned meat to prevent bacteria growth.
But I’m sure there will always be plenty of unthinking people out there repeating the Pressure Canner mantras.
And boy am I glad I don’t have comments on this site. I’m sure there are still some of you folks out there, frightened of life, who will always be convinced everything is out to kill you.
Nobody gets out alive.